To polylogue or not to polylogue

Monologue (n): One person speaking to another person or to many.
Dialogue (n): Two people speaking to one another.
Polylogue (n): One person speaking to many {use – Facebook, Twitter, blogging}.

Fact: 9 out of 10 people believe their thoughts, ideas and opinions are interesting to others – this is one of the fundamental truths that encourages speech. A related impulse is the desire to learn new things, to listen. In combination, the sympathetic desires to speak and to listen facilitate conversation, and by extension, civilisation.

A dialogue incorporates both speaking and listening in a reciprocal relationship that enriches both its participants. Each individual increases his understanding of the other; is in turn understood more deeply; gains the satisfaction of being heard; has his ideas improved upon through analysis; feels the pleasure of being involved in something bigger than himself. The dialogue exists at the intersection of a deeply-engrained web of basic human urges: it is intrinsic to our existence.

The polylogue is much less than the dialogue in many ways – it strips away much of the latter’s enriching characteristics and responds directly to the impulse to speak, to be heard. In this, the polylogue offers something more, something new: the small voice projected large.

Whilst the average civilian has historically had scant opportunity to exploit this base impulse (postcards home and letters to the editor being the rare exceptions), this has all changed with the advent of new online media. Facebook, Twitter and blogging have dispensed with the barriers that traditionally inhibit the polylogger – we carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go and are connected to the internet every minute. The next tweet is just a few easy keystrokes away. In so doing, new media present the ideal environment for the polylogue to blossom.

At its essence, the polylogue may be little more than an impoverished version of the dialogue, a thinned down facsimile of a rich conversational soup. But it pampers its participants, strokes their egos by projecting their identities to the world, loud and clear. It will survive and thrive because it addresses, in fleeting sound bites, the deeply coded needs of 9 out of 10 people.

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